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09th January 2014

Will Sharing Information Improve Patient Care?

Handing File Folder, teamwork conceptWhat's new?

The way in which we collect patient information has moved on from paper records to a new era that some are finding hard to come to terms with, especially when it comes to sharing patient data. The NHS Summary Care Record, introduced to improve the safety and quality of patient care, has been active for a couple of years now and a lot of work was done to inform and reassure patients about what information would be shared and why.

It seems the NHS has decided to take this one step further by using information about the care patients have received, those involved in providing care and health services can see how well they are doing, and where improvements need to be made. The NHS 'Better information means better care' patient information leaflet has been published to explain the system, and gives details of how to opt out if people wish. Whilst their intentions may be to ensure that the best possible evidence is available to improve the quality of care for all it comes across as yet another benchmarking exercise.

Is it really worth it?

I agree that gaps in information needs to be addressed and the role of the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) is to ensure that high quality information is used appropriately to improve patient care. I also believe that sharing information is crucial for Healthcare staff to have quicker access to information about a patient, particularly in an emergency. What I am not entirely convinced about is that the data to be collected will be used in a way that will directly affect and improve patient care. The time it will take to collate this data to be significant could take years, by which time we will probably have a different Government in place and this scheme will, like others before it, be put 'on hold'.

Stay optimistic

I hope that this scheme serves its purpose and that standards of care are improved where necessary, but also that excellent healthcare is recognised and shared. Patients should always be fully informed about what their data will be used for and how they can object to its use if they wish. Healthcare providers must have a process in place to inform, support and document patients decision whether or not they wish to share their information. By law, Healthcare providers must respect patient confidentiality and keep all information about them secure.

"Part of the healing process is sharing with other people who care." Jerry Cantrell


NHS 'Better information means better care' patient information leaflet:

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Alison Lowerson

GP Specialist

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